Genre Spotlight : Biography

My son is now seven years old and if you were to ask him what types of books he likes, he’d be quick to say that he likes “true stories” aka. biographies.  Yes, there are lots of children’s picture books in the biography genre and we’ve learned about all kinds of interesting people in history through this medium.  It’s great to expose kids to many different literature genres at a young age – you never know what they will be interested in!

I loved focusing on one genre a month when I was a classroom teacher so I thought I could bring some of my genre-teaching enthusiasm to the the Library Commons blog for a couple weeks.  This week, I want to share some library’s resources for teaching about biographies.

One way to incorporate biographies into home learning is to find the biography of a person who has been prominent in studying the same topic your child might be studying in science or art.  What a great cross-curriculuar opportunity!

For example, is your child interested in inventing things or are you teaching about sound & light? We have a new Thomas Edison Biography Book Kit in the TLA library right now including a book with 21 Edison invention-related activities (request the kit for a month loan by emailing your Home teacher). Kit includes 1 picture book, 2 DVDs, 2 easy-reader books, 1 novel, and 1 activity books with 21 projects.

    Thomas Edison Interactive DVDEdison : The Wizard of Light    

At an additional cost of $1.60, you could purchase and print a copy of this Thomas Edison foldable activity for grades 1 – 3.

We have lots of biographies on the shelf at a variety of different reading levels.  Here are just a few:


Wondering if we have the biography that you’re looking for?  Search our library system here.

Historica Canada has created a huge series of biography videos that are about 45 minutes long and can be found on their website : .  We also carry a series of books called The Canadians which feature the following Canadians: Gabriel Dumont, Tom Longboat, Wilfried Laurier, John A. MacDonald, Lester B. Pearson, Laura Secord, Emily Carr, Crowfoot, and Alexander Graham Bell.


Now you’ve chosen to focus on biographies, what now?  Here are a few ideas that I found online that you could use with any biography:

Create a lapbook with this unit for $2.40 from Teachers Pay Teachers.

Research a person in history and write your own biography for them!  Scholastic’s Writer’s Workshop on Biography

Keep track of all the biographies you read by filling in a Biography Report free from Teachers Pay Teachers.

Read a biography and create a graphic novel of this person’s life using some of these free comic templates from Teachers Pay Teachers.

Compare and contrast TWO biographies of the same person using these graphic organizers for $4.00 at Teachers Pay Teachers.

Add some visual arts to your project and create a biography bottle!

Image result for biography bottle

Scholastic Orders Through the TLA Library

The blog is back up and running and I’m planning weekly Friday posts!  Check back every Friday for the latest and greatest at the TLA library!

This week, I’m excited to share that we will now be doing Scholastic orders for local TLA families.  When I was a brand new student teacher, I was introduced to Scholastic flyers in my school where I was doing my practicum.  I LOVED these flyers!  So many books!  So many great deals that you can’t get anywhere else!  I am now glad to bring Scholastic Reading Club to TLA.  Scholastic gives “bonus bucks” to teachers who order through them and all these “bucks” will pour directly into purchasing new resources for our library.  It’s win-win!


Scholastic just ships to schools so in order to get your books, you must be willing to pick up at TLA Hawthorne!

Our first (and only) order going in before the new year will be Friday, Nov. 25. You can order from BOTH November and December flyers. Here are all the flyers here:

Grant money cannot be used for these purchases as you must pay online. Information about paying online can be found here :  I’ve paid online myself and it’s fairly straightforward.  You calculate the amount you owe using the order form in the flyer (it gives you the amount to pay with taxes for BC).  Then you enter the amount into Parent Pay.  I will get an email saying you’ve paid but you will still need to submit your order via email (or drop off at TLA Hawthorne).  Just email if you have any questions.

My personal picks for November/Decemeber are the following :

From pg.6 in the gr. 4/5 December flyer : Brian Pack 

Image result for hatchet, brian's hunt, brian's winter by gary paulsenImage result for hatchet, brian's hunt, brian's winter by gary paulsenImage result for hatchet, brian's hunt, brian's winter by gary paulsen

If your child in gr. 4 – 7 has not yet read, Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, this is a must buy/borrow!  It’s one of my favourite books.  13 yr. old Brian is stranded in northern Canada wilderness and has to survive with just his hatchet.  THEN, because your reader will love it, there are multiple Brian books that play out different endings to Hatchet.  In addition to the Brian Pack, Gary Paulsen has written, “Brian’s Winter” & “The River”.

From the last page of K – Gr.1 November flyer Deck the Halls : A Canadian Christmas Carol

My family owns the Porcupine in a Pine Tree book in this series and love it (can be found for $4.99 in the Holiday Gift Books flyer)!  I’ve definitely added this bargain priced hardcover book to my personal order for my kids!   Here’s an exerpt from :

  • Join Porcupine and his familiar Canadian character friends as they decorate for Christmas! That means loons donning skates, polar bears cozy in slippers and sled dogs chasing around the room! All the while, the beavers are busy building a secret surprise…what could it be?  This hilarious, tongue-in-cheek re-telling of the popular Christmas carol will have the whole family singing this holiday season!


And, these picks will be available to check-out from our TLA library in the new year :

Making Canada Home : How Immigrants Shaped This Country

Making Canada Home(exerpt from Making Canada Home chronicles the country’s major waves of immigration, from welcoming early European arrivals to becoming a modern-day safe haven for refugees. The book also acknowledges times when Canada has not been especially welcoming. It explores how each period of immigration has shaped the laws, values, and face of Canada on the way to today’s multicultural society.  A great tool for discussions on Canadian history and immigration!

DEAR CANADA SERIES //  These Are My Words : The Residential School Diary of Violet Pesheens

(photo and exerpt from

Acclaimed author Ruby Slipperjack delivers a haunting novel about a 12-year-old girl’s experience at a residential school in 1966.  Drawing from her own experiences at residential school, Ruby Slipperjack creates a brave, yet heartbreaking heroine in Violet, and lets young readers glimpse into an all-too important chapter in our nation’s history.

ITTT Boards in the library: check them out!

We are slowly but surely increasing the number of consumable resources that we have in stock as samples for teachers and parents to check out in person.  Who doesn’t love flipping through the pages of a workbook or opening the box of a board game in person instead of purchasing online based on the cover and a written description!?

A TLA Learning Support Services (formally known as Special Needs) teacher  suggested we have a couple of these Independent Tactile Teaching Tools (or ITTT) Boards in the library for parents and teachers to see in person.   What are they?



According to their website,, “ITTT Boards promote independent learning through literacy and numeracy activities. Learners are given the opportunity to practice and advance these skills daily with the use of our calendar board and activity board. Once the target learning goal is introduced (i.e. ordering numbers), ITTT Boards allow learners to review their tasks and work at their own pace without more assistance from the teacher.  For most students, adding the extra sense of touch to an activity helps with focus and the overall learning process.  The task of putting pencil to paper is removed and replaced by manipulatives and motion. The repetitive nature of the activities encourages independence.Independence is key to helping a student gain confidence in a task or activity. ”

An ITTT Board set would be ordered as a consumable because of the self-assembly of the pieces upon arrival plus so many little pieces to keep track of.  For $45, a parent could get both the activity and calendar sets which includes one Calendar Board, one Activity Board, Numbers Tiles 0 – 100, Alphabet Tiles A – Z, Months (12), Day Numbers (31), Days of the Week (7), and Calendar Activity Tiles.  If only one set interests you, it’s $25 for one set. gives lots of ideas for activities here.  

But here’s the best part – we have TWO at the library as samples so that you can check it out in person when you stop by.  LSS teachers – if you want to borrow one to take with you to a meeting with one of your families, let me know!  I will get it into your hands so you can share an ITTT Board with students and families who would benefit from this tactile resource.

Library Progress!

If you have stopped by TLA Hawthorne since January, you likely found me surrounded by piles of books on the floor!  Yes, I am in a constant state of re-organizing over here.  It has to get worse before it can get better, right?


Why am I in this constant state?  Firstly, I have only been working at the TLA library since January and after the library’s big move from our main office to Hawthorne Square this past October, some sections were in a bit of a disarray.  Secondly, it’s not your typical library like your local public library.  Most of what we have on our shelves are textbooks, specific programs, and a variety of games/math manipulatives/DVDs etc.  We don’t organize using the Dewey Decimal system or anything like this so it’s important to make sure the subject sections are clearly labeled in a way that we can locate specific items when your Home teacher orders your resource.    So this has been my focus!

The shelves are looking better and better as the weeks progress (if I do say so myself!).  I hope you’re stop by.  And if you DO find me with piles of boxes and books surrounding me, fear not!  It’s a work in progress!